Kolkata’s favourite son-in-law returns

These days, Ted Dexter watches a game of cricket from afar. However, England's series-levelling victory in Mumbai has got the former captain from the '60s interested, and now, he is willing to watch the third Test at the Eden Gardens from ringside. Dexter has come to Kolkata on Cricket Association of Bengal's (CAB) invitation. The state association is celebrating 80 years of India-England cricket and will be felicitating Dexter and Nari Contractor — the two oldest surviving captains in the world today.

Dexter of course is happy to receive the honour. But there's a sense of uneasiness as well. "Everytime I come to India, England lose. I came here as the captain in 1961 and lost the series 2-0. Then in 1993, I had accompanied Graham Gooch's side as the Chairman of Selectors and England lost 3-0. Now, the series is so intriguingly poised, I don't want Alastair Cook's team to slip," he told The Indian Express on a wintry Monday in Kolkata.

Dexter has an old friend in Kolkata — former India Davis Cup captain Naresh Kumar. It is at his place that the English couple are put up. The 77 year old likes the community garden, a place he visits rather often with his wife Susan. His partner for the last five decades was born and raised in Kolkata (then Calcutta), spending the first eight years of her life here. Susan, however, has a long standing cricketing connection to this city as well.

Susan's father, Tom Longfield, had led Bengal to their first Ranji Trophy title in 1938-39. It was befitting that she married someone who went on to become a great of the game. "Susan loves cricket more than me and it was she who ran the family," Dexter said smiling. "I had to do that," his wife intervenes. "He was an amateur and I had to pay the bills from whatever I got from my modelling career," says Susan. This marriage clearly is still going strong.

For Susan, returning to Kolkata after a gap of four years is a bit shocking. "I didn't see a cow on our way from the airport. The high rises have replaced the slums. Some old flavours, however, are still there, some buildings from the days of the Raj," she says. They came here in 2008 as Susan wanted to celebrate the golden jubilee of their marriage.

Talking cricket

Dexter moves on to the cricket. "I am very impressed with Pujara. One of the most correct players I have seen for a long, long time," said the former England captain. He had words of praise for Virat Kohli as well but advised "that wonderful stroke-player" to be a little more patient while playing in the longer format.

He is also happy that England have started to bounce back after what he calls a very bad year. "But it would be too premature to say that England have mastered the Indian conditions. I also don't buy the theory that England spinners are better than their Indian counterparts. In fact, in Mumbai, England won thanks to the two fantastic innings by Cook and Kevin Pietersen. Cook has been magnificent in this series and Pietersen played a real match-winning knock in the second Test. However, we still have a long way to go to win the series," Dexter says, putting the balance of this series in perspective.

For someone who has scored 4,502 runs in 62 Tests at 47.89, batting is about taking the attack to the opposition. But that is after getting your eyes in. He likes Virender Sehwag but admires Sachin Tendulkar and Hashim Amla. Don Bradman, however, towers above the rest. "No one can ever be compared to Bradman and even a school child knows that."

For a 77-year-old, Dexter is supremely fit and has a clear opinion about the future of Test cricket. "Test cricket will survive as long as TV companies are backing it. The day they will start losing interest, it will be dead," the man, whom the Fred Truman had nicknamed 'Lord', said.

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